Friday, December 10, 2021

Wartime Shortages Weren't The Only Reason

It is commonly known that many 1940s-1950s handbags were created from unconventional materials by traditional manufacturers as well as home crafters due to World War II shortages. While this is true to some extent, there is another reason. In 1944, the US government placed a whopping 20% federal excise "luxury" tax on handbags. This meant that a $3 purse purchased at a department store would cost an additional 60 cents tax at a time when minimum wage was 30 cents an hour. This led to many women crafting their own from patterns, which is why there was an upswing in sales of raw materials such as crochet cord, zippers and zipper pulls, which were not subject to the tax.

Below are some examples of home-crafted handbags and a photo of a woman carrying a similar purse. Bags and original photo from the collection of The Vintage Purse Museum. 1944 newspaper article clipped via paid subscription to

06 Aug 1944, Sun Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)

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